• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Everybody Had A Hard Year, Everybody Had a Good TIme. Everybody Had a Wet Dream, Everybody Saw The Sun Shine

Well, you know I like to end the year on a high note of pain and suffering, so please enjoy the last post of 2012 from our beloved west coast correspondent, the ever sunny Shanna Mahin . What can I say? This writing business can really kick your ass. Most people quit. And they might be on to something. But for those of us who need to keep scratching at the great wall of being and nothingness, you are not alone. At least not here at Mr. Roger’s neighborhood where the punch is spiked and the language is too. Have your self a merry fucking Christmas and survive the god damn new year. I hope I’ll see you back on January 2, 2012. Love, Betsy

AND NOW, HERE’S SHANNA:

The first shitty Christmas I remember was when my mother got drunk at the bowling alley on Christmas Eve and went home with some guy named Bob who looked like fat Elvis. I think I was seven. When I woke up on Christmas morning and she wasn’t there, I ate some Lucky Charms moistened with tap water and then I opened my present.

We didn’t have a refrigerator in our one-bedroom apartment, but we had a serious motherfucking tree. It was green and fragrant and it touched the cottage cheese ceiling. Priorities.

I got a Twirl-o-Paint set, which I’d been raving about ever since my father showed up for my birthday and took me to the Santa Monica Pier, where he and his girlfriend stuffed me full of cotton candy and let me play all the games, even the ones that cost fifty cents. I came home with a stomachache and the still-damp painting clutched in my sticky fist. I didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.

I had the whole thing assembled when my mother came in the door on Christmas morning, barefoot, with her stiletto heels dangling from one hand. Things went downhill from there.

I’ve told that story, in person and on paper, and with varying degrees of detail, for the past 40 years. I’m telling it here, now, because I feel like it’s my street cred for a big cliché I’m about to throw down, which is this:

Bah, humbug.

Fuck you, Santa, with your forced bonhomie and your egalitarian nature. The holidays suck. (And I’d like to say that if you’ve read this far and you’re mildly horrified by the turn this post is taking, then it’s probably time for us to part ways. No hard feelings. Go call your sister and tell her how much you love her and have a cup of eggnog and a Christmas cookie.)

The holidays are every writer’s nightmare. We’re the kind of folk who like to skulk around the periphery, and the holidays are so front and center. I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose December 18th as my wedding date. Now it’s just a cattle call of celebration: Thanksgiving, our anniversary, Christmas, New Year’s. Fuck me.

My husband and I just celebrated our first anniversary. The day before we left for our romantic Laguna Beach weekend, my husband told me (again) that he’s having a really hard fucking time with my weight gain and my unfinished manuscript. Newsflash: so am I, bro. I’ve been through 100 pounds, six years, four drafts, and 1.33 agents since I started writing this fucking memoir. And a partridge in a pear tree.

In Laguna Beach, there are twinkle lights on all the lamp posts, and if I see one more dog wearing antlers, I’m applying for a hunting license. I realize what white girl, middle-class problems I’m having, in case you were wondering. But, seriously, the holidays.

What’s the worst holiday story you have to tell? Don’t hold back. Misery loves company.

104 Responses

  1. When my husband was eight, he received a bundle of sticks in his stocking. They were switches for the beatings to come.

    • I want to say something, but I just can’t.

    • That breaks my heart and confirms my suspicions about the human race. If they are living, please send their contact info under separate cover, because I’m keeping a list for my postal moment. It’s not just gonna be some random bloodbath. I have standards, yo.

    • That just sent shivers up my spine.

    • Dear lord. Fucking parents.

    • My former husband received a bag of coal when he was eight years old. I tried for over a decade to demonstrate a better side of the holidays, but some wounds don’t heal. Then he pulled a similar antic on our son (we were, thankfully, divorced then) – I suspect that maybe it’s a genetic disorder.

      • Sorry about your son. It’s not genetic, he’s just messed up.

        My Uncle Johnny and his brother got the same present from their father. Not like the bastard couldn’t afford to get something nice for them, he was the town dentist. Prick. When Johnny grew up, first Christmas back from the war, he bought up all the roller skates he could find and gave them out to random kids on the street on Christmas.

      • It’s not genetic, it’s a perpetuation of abuse. Abused kids grow up to be abusive parents–despite their best intentions–without some sort of intensive therapeutic process. I’m trying to be politically correct, but what I really mean is therapy. Lots of it. Hopefully the coal was the worst of it, but I doubt it.

      • I know that’s often the case, but my husband is the best parent I know, and the only therapy he’s gotten is the kind I give him under the mistletoe. For some people, it’s enough to be loved.

      • Or to have someone to love.

    • Right on. That’s great for him. For me, therapy saved my life. I had to work out all that trauma as an adult so I could love and be loved. And I still I chose not to have kids because I wasn’t sure my own waves of self-loathing wouldn’t leak into their little membranes, no matter how I tried to hide it. As it is, I have a neurotic, food-obsessed dog who bites when fearful, so it was probably the right choice.

      • The above was in response to Averil, btw. I get confused about how to make replies stack in the right place.

      • I completely understand. I think it really depends on the dynamics of the relationships and the personality of the child. I’d describe Drew’s attitude toward his stepfather as disdainful. He never really connected with the guy (unsurprisingly), so his anger was fairly straightforward, and possibly easier to leave behind.

  2. Eggnog gives me terrible gas, so… I’ll pass.

    Worst holiday story? First, a song!

    “Chipmunks roasting in a forest fire,
    Pine trees bursting into flames,
    Old Jack Frost
    Counts the toes you’ve lost,
    As you scream into your muffler from the pain…”
    etc. etc. etc.

    Okay, worst holiday story. I could tell you about the Christmas when I was eighteen and strung-out and starving and sleeping with the cockroaches.

    Or better yet, I could tell you about the Christmas when I staggered six sheets to the wind into my second wife’s office party, and the look of horror that crossed her face as she ushered me out of there as quickly as she could. They were all accountants, you see, and my bottom-line was zero.

    Or maybe best of all, I could tell you about the Christmases when I was nine-ten-eleven and my parents decided we would be stop being Southern Baptists and become Jehovah’s Witnesses instead. In case you don’t know, JWs don’t celebrate Christmas. And they don’t celebrate birthdays. Be a child whose Christmases and birthdays get taken away and see how you get over it.

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and for God’s sake, don’t drive drunk, people.

  3. The first Christmas after my parents split up was a bit of a white knuckle ride, I have to admit.

  4. Thanksgiving reminiscence, blog of Nov.22,2011, which see. Involving dead babies so I won’t drag it out here. Warnings and disclaimers in place.

    You don’t need a hunting license, just a FOID and a carry permit. You can’t get a FOID if you were ever hospitalized for mental illness. The Glock 27 is a nice small piece for a female with good accuracy and range and you can get cute little golden vines engraved on the butt.

    • Still in the running for a FOID, but check with me after the next draft of the memoir. My Glock is a 9 (I’m from L.A., after all), but I’m more partial to the Sig. It’s loaded and unracked in the gun safe on my side of the bed and I will shoot first and then try to decipher why you’re in my living room . This is not a metaphor.

    • Also, carry permits are as scarce as real tits in LA. We like our weaponry scandalous and illegal. And it makes our Left Coast rap music really deep. (shit, I’m really bummed I already used my one allotted “yo” on an earlier response)

  5. First of all, I am really, really happy you’re our poster girl tonight. You rock, sistah!

    And yeah, I can relate to the newlywed husband looking askance at the extra dough roll of flesh that just gets fleshier this time of year. December should be renamed Obesember. Am I right?

    So. December 1981. I’m home from college with some mutt I can’t even remember how I got. Tension in the home. Mom, Dad, Sis, Dad’s Mom, Mom’s Dad all pensively sitting in the Victorian-appointed living room. My dog starts freaking out and tips over a lamp. Dad loses it and yanks the mutt by the collar out the front door and into a busy road situation. Sis grabs Dad’s arm to stop him. Mom intervenes: “Don’t hit her! Don’t hit her!” Dad’s Mom marches up to dress Mom down for interfering with the punishment Sis has coming for her many crimes, slaps Mom across the face for being generally slovenly and not good enough. Mom’s Dad and me are sitting on a velvet fainting couch stuffing rum balls into our pie holes ’cause we’re both passive and horrified and mostly paralyzed.

    Dad and Mom got a divorce the next year so Christmas, 1982 I came home to find Dad’s 28-year old girlfriend on the Victorian settee wearing his bathrobe, weeping for no apparent reason, and asking me to join her in a bong hit for the holidays.

    Merry fucking Christmas to you all!

  6. No horror stories here. Except for a couple of years ago when because of some really shitty decisions I made, I had the pleasure of telling my kids that there would be a lean holiday season. They survived, but they’ll never forget it. I spent $45 on three kids and it showed.

  7. Those stories I told (see above), they were all selfish, they were all about me. Here’s an even worse worst Christmas story, told to me by my dad.

    “Christmas of 1969, when I was in Vietnam, at the base where I was stationed I was Non-Commissioned Officer of the Day. A young buck-sergeant, three-striper, nice kid, dropped by the office where I was on duty. We had a cup of coffee and shot the shit for a while, wished each other Merry Christmas, then he drove back across the compound to his bunker. When he stepped out of his Jeep, he stepped on a freshly planted booby-trap. It was my job to identify the body. Every Christmas, I think of that.”

  8. I don’t remember specifically what happened at Christmas time. From September of that year until February of the next, every day was exactly the same: I was pregnant, unwed, and watching ten hours of the then-new MTV in my mother’s living room, only switching to another channel to watch back-to-back reruns of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. Every day. I studied business law and some sort of self-awareness course via a community college radio broadcast in the evenings. I made A’s, fantasized about becoming an entertainment lawyer in the music industry. I dreamed of rock stars every night.

    And every day, at precisely the same hour and minute, right when the hero or heroine on that big boat thought all was lost, that true love would never be theirs, I would break down crying. Dismantled dreams, misunderstandings and obstacles and implausible twists of fate—all redeemed, right before my eyes. The truth was that I never let myself cry at any other time. The timed-to-the-second plot was the perfect camouflage for my grief; I was so absorbed in the story that the tears always came as a surprise and a release. I was so happy when those couples reunited, I must have believed that if I didn’t resent those beautiful, happy people, I could be like them, and then the phone would one day ring, implausibly, for me.

  9. Shanna,
    If your memoir is anything like that story, I look forward to reading it. Your writing is fantastic.
    As for my worst Christmas, I just posted it and it’s rather too long to go into here, but suffice to say I read yours and that is a true dose of perspective. Thank you for writing it.
    As for your Newsflash, right there with you barring the 1.33 agents. I kind of feel bad for the poor fractional bastard.

  10. Christmas is the only time in my childhood that I remember being something approaching kinda happy. Probably why I love it today.

  11. My mom was a veritable rock star at Christmas but it didn’t matter. I still pined away for that that one thing I would never end up getting. My father.

  12. Christmas Day was a time for false jollity, happiness, love. One day a year when Dad smiled, Mum smiled, I smiled.
    The other 364? Tension, brooding anger, resentment, criticism, criticism, breath stuck in throat, waiting to be shouted at, a shaking forkful of food travelling to a quivering mouth, in fear of a lengthy grilling at the dining table.
    I’m glad it’s over. Christmas, and the other 364 on my terms now.

    • This sounds familiar enough to cover my kid-hood. I’ll go with an adult version:

      When I was 29, I traveled to Phoenix to spend Christmas Eve with my just-divorced boyfriend (he was 44) at his ex-wife’s house, with her entire family.

      Trying to fit in and seem older, I wore one of those outfits you now see at Ugly Christmas Sweater parties — I recall a big green tree with ornaments hanging off — and the size 2 ex-wife with the DD boobs wore clingy gold sparkle. Gosh, she was pretty.

      The next morning, he left me alone in our cheap hotel room while he went back to her house to open gifts with his 3 teenage children and to make “his signature big family Christmas pancakes!”

      I’m not sure I’ve ever cried that hard, for that long.

      He came back to gather me up at noon, and we went back to her house to spend the afternoon. We’d be having an early dinner — tradition. Her elderly mother arrived and stalked around calling me “that woman” all day. The ex-wife kept asking if I felt okay (see swollen eyes from all that sobbing) and insisted I lie down. In her bed. In their old bed. Pretty soon, she was sitting cross-legged on one side of me, and my boyfriend was on the other side, both of them convinced I was “coming down with something.”

      Some Christmas pain is self-inflicted.

      • Dear lord. Christmas with Don and Betty Draper.

      • I wish I would have known you then. You would have been out of that house so damn fast it would have knocked the elderly mother on her ass.

      • oh dear lord, the lengths we go in our 20s to teach ourselves what we didn’t get taught as young, impressionable, sweet things.

        you know teri, not to make light of your 29-year old heartache, but that’s a short story. (i’d write it from the elderly mother’s POV.)

      • I wanna see that on the big screen. Let’s start casting. I don’t go to movies much, so I need some help here. Anybody game?

      • Short story titled: This Trio, Fatal and Valuable. This was the best adult relationship I ever had for writing material. Fun to write, even.

        What if we weren’t writers? Where do non-writers go with this bullshit?

      • TPs game:

        This Trio, Fatal and Valuable
        (British Cast)
        the new girlfriend: kiera knightly
        the older boyfriend/ex-husband: Jude Law
        the ex-wife:
        elderly mother: helen mirren (made to look older than she is, of course)
        wife: helena bonham carter

      • Keira! I get to be so skinny!

        Ex wife: Heidi Klum.

      • Teri: Is the short story on your blog, or where?

    • I grew up in the same house, sounds like. Congrats to us for escaping. Dad always had a bad drunk around the holidays. One December when I was in high school I had a bad cold and had to turn off “White Christmas” (still can’t watch that movie) when he came home from the bar, reeled down the hallway, and tried to talk to me. Will not forget the sickening smell of Johnny Walker Red through my heavy nasal fog.

      I had to call the police on him once, when as a junior-high kid I was the only one in the house adult enough to realize his violent, specific threats might not be empty.

      It took me till my 40s to realize he had an undiagnosed mood disorder and was self-medicating. I got him on antidepressants in his 80s and saw the stable, pleasant fellow he might have been in another life. Does it sound to sappy to say I finally did something I swore I’d never do…forgive him?

  13. Sticks, ‘Nam, Velvet bong hits? I got nothing.

  14. Nothing says pain and suffering like a high-heel, pointy-toe glittershoe.

  15. Gosh, sittign here racking my brain for some horrible holiday stories, but I too, got none. Christmas was a time for unbridled happy consumerism in my house, 6 siblings all spending their babysitting or lawn mowing money on each other….Mom, Dad, glowing co-. conspirators, driving us to Korvettes, Waldbaums or THE MALL or anywhere we needed to go, astonished at our imaginations: wrapping up a canned ham for grandma? (yes, she said she loved ham) a box a Tampons for Junie? (yes, she said she needed them)
    These days I still love the holidays, especially christmas day, sorry you guys but it feels cozy. so still and peaceful. my tiny tree, that when put on the tv table and topped w some strange “star” thing, will almost touch the ceiling. A glorious day off to work on that book.

  16. During the gas crisis in the late ’70s, when gas stations rationed gas and sold to assigned even numbered customers one day, the odd ones the following day, my uncle Ed drove us home from across the border with Connecticut and let his tank run low. It was late Christmas evening and all the stations were closed. My uncle Ed drove us home because my stepfather was too drunk to get behind the wheel. My uncle’s mother was in the car and she was drunker than Tom, my stepfather. The two of them seemed to be having a good old time, reminiscing and singing Christmas carols, but when we went to drop off the old lady, Tom gallantly offered his hand to help her out of the car and she said, “Don’t get fresh with me!” and slapped his face. The rest of the ride was silent except for Tom’s soft sobs. My gruff old grandpa felt uncomfortable with tears and stared out the window, angry.
    When we got home a friend from across the street came over to say hello and Uncle Ed took us aside and gave us his car keys. “There’s a siphon and container in my trunk; go get me some gas. And don’t get caught!”
    My friend Frankie and I smiled and set off looking to stealsome gasoline, suburb punks acting like hoods. We finally found an unlocked gas cap (these were serious times) and set to work, making way more noise than any self respecting vandal should. A man burst out of his house waving a rifle and yelling, “Hey! What are you doing to my car? Get back here!” We ran. I sprinted down a driveway, zigging and zagging in hopes of escaping a bullet, made my way through some dark backyards, sleeping dogs roused and barking, and approached the back of my house. Stupid Frankie ran straight to the front door and the man followed him. I crept up the back steps and heard shouting, mostly from my mother and grandfather yelling back at the screaming man while Frankie and Uncle Ed, two of the three culprits, said as little as possible. My mother told the man to get out of her house, he told her it was a terrible thing when neighbors steal from neighbors and finally my 75 year old grandpa threatened to kick the man’s ass. Uncle Ed offered to pay for the gas and the man refused, but glared and said, “Don’t think you’re getting your
    siphoning can back!”
    As I looked in the window I noticed a figure in the foreground, nearly a shadow, hiding in the darkened kitchen. Crouched behind the refrigerator and sobbing was my stepfather trying to be as invisible as possible while avoiding the confrontation in another room. When the irate neighbor finally left, I came in the back door and Tom sobbed harder, frightened, like I was a murderer who had just put a knife to his throat.
    I went into the next room and my mother moved quickly toward me, looking as angry as I had ever seen her. She blew right past me and stormed into the kitchen.
    “Where are you?”
    My stepfather, a wounded puppy, looked up when she turned on the light. His face was shiny from tears and snot was hanging from his nose and stretching from the corners of his upper lip to the lower lip of his wide open mouth.
    “Look at yourself!” My mother yelled. “You’re hiding while a man with a gun comes in and threatens your wife and an old man! This drinking has got to stop!” And even more words that silenced the whole room until finally she declared, “If you don’t stop drinking, this marriage is over! I’ve been divorced before and I can do it again!” And that was that. Tom knew Maria, my mother, didn’t take divorce lightly. He suddenly became sober.
    I resented him for that nioght and it took a long time to forgive him, but I was creeping through the shadows, too.

    The coolest Christmases — watching an appreciative child opening an unexpected surprise of a present.

  17. Last year I stepped in shih tzu piss every day for a week and had my brother tell me I hadn’t lost my figure as I bent over to put clothes in the dryer. This year I keep picking dishcloths off the floor wet with shih tzu piss and waking with anxiety attacks wondering how to explain my shitty sales figures to my new agent.

    Also, there will be three schizophrenics at the table, which I suspect won’t be as fun as it sounds.

    Tell your husband you’re fucking great. And I’ve never read this guy, but the way he approaches his material reminded me of you.

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2011/12/19/111219crbo_books_wood

    • How could I not be enchanted by a book named “Pulphead?” And, fwiw, three schizophrenics at the table only sounds fun if you’re watching it in a Woody Allen movie, with a bucket of buttered popcorn. Why do you have an incontinent shih tzu is the real question? Also, does your brother know how creepy he sounds? Or was he being funny, in which case, see above re: Woody Allen movie,

      • My brother learned everything from our father who recently said to me, “So you’re not bosomy.”

        It’ll be a fun ride.

  18. presbyterian silence 365 days of the year.

    i was raised in the mountains, across the Rocky Mountain Trench, and nobody spoke, they just dug themselves in. that’s how perpetual life is along a major fault zone. the air is full of silence, and the silence is full of expectations.

    i don’t take much to being told to be quiet. guess that’s why i write.

  19. The worst Christmas was the one several years ago when we were visiting my folks and my mother kept nagging me to call an old, former friend (the son of one of her dear friends) who was in town as well and wanted to talk to me. I didn’t want to–he was a former friend for a reason– and kept telling her this.

    Finally, just as we were going to open gifts–the whole family together, for once, seeing them open the things we’d chosen for each other–she called me into the kitchen, handed me the phone, and left. It was this former friend. After some stilted conversation, I asked him why he’d called. He said, “I didn’t call, you did.”

    I told him Mom had said he wanted to talk to me. He said he was coming through our town on his way to California and wanted to know if he could sleep on our couch.

    By the time this awkward call ended, everyone was pretty much done and dispersed. I told my mother that I was upset that she’d tricked me and that I’d missed the big gift exchange. Clearly pissed at my ingratitude, she looked at me like I was the most selfish whiner she’d ever met. “All your presents are still there. You can open them now.”

    I didn’t tell her where to stick them. Maybe i should have.

    My best Christmas? Our older daughter’s second one–I’ve never seen such pure joy, until our younger daughter’s second!

    • And now I’ve read everyone else’s comments and feel like the most selfish, privileged whiner I’ve ever met. Oh, well.

      • Not a chance. And honestly, I don’t have a single horror story of my own. My mother is a darling, an exuberant holiday-maker, and my dad was one of those sweet, sentimental drinkers who’d take to singing carols with the wrong lyrics and would let us stand on his feet while he waltzed us around the Christmas tree. They weren’t perfect, but they were adorable and they loved us.

        (Toddler Christmases are the bomb. Those little faces!)

      • But Sarah W, just because your sh*t doesn’t hit you on Christmas doesn’t make you more privileged than anybody else. If we expect Christmas to be different than any other day vis a vis sh*t happening—that’s a whopping sense of entitlement. The lesson in that situation, one that will serve you well in the future, was a fabulous Christmas present, and you had to open it alone.

        I’m happy you’ve had mostly good Christmases. I’m really not the “misery loves company” sort. Maybe if I were drinking . . .

      • BTW, I’m talking about adults’ expectations, not children’s.

  20. Forgive me for remembering a certain difficult holiday in this way:

    The Christmas Season of 2005 found my son & I without a home, sleeping on the floor of my friend’s condominium. Our house was uninhabitable from the flooding after Hurricane Katrina; the FEMA trailer sitting in my yard could not be connected to city utilities due to the bureaucratic shenanigans that made every effort a epic struggle; I had no employment, and the food stamp allowance many of us got after that storm would end in January.

    Through a friend who could get mail (there was no USPS in our section of Orleans Parish until the following year), I received a letter a few days before Christmas. She brought it to me as I continued to rip out the damaged walls of my house. A greeting-card shaped envelope, with an unfamiliar return address, I waited until she left to open it. Inside was a note from a family in Pennsylvania who had heard about me via one of my distant in-laws. They enclosed a check for over $800 to help my son and I have a happy holiday.

    I slumped to the floor of my ruined house and cried enough to literally wash off some of the flood-dirt from a section of floor. It was truly a “George Bailey” moment and I learned that in the worst of times there can still be great good.

    To those extraordinary people, again, my humblest thanks. To everyone else, I wish a chance to find that ember of warmth when the wind blows coldest.

    • That’s an amazing story, Karen. I hope this is a warm, dry and wonderful Christmas.

    • This is a wonderful story, though it sucks that you had to struggle through Katrina. Isn’t it wonderful when someone can restore our faith in humanity? Hope your holidays this year and ahead are happy and dry.

  21. I’m with your husband. Finish the memoir. I was googling you halfway through the post because 40 lines isn’t enough. I want more.

  22. “last post of 2012”? Really?

  23. I pretty much take life as it comes. Maybe a few Christmases when I was in the Navy and away from home.
    On another tack, I don’t know if I read this or thought it up myself, but falure isn’t failure unless you quit.

    Peace,

    Webb

  24. THE worst? That’s a tough one. Let me see. Which one didn’t end with a hole punched in a wall, screaming and yelling, or waiting to be swallowed by the darkness? The one with the fake suicide was special. The gunshot, my mother trying to open the lock on the bedroom door with a bobby pin. The laughter when she finally did. The sobs.

    At least a bad beginning does not necessitate a bad ending. I love Christmas. Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate.

  25. 1965

    Grand Island, New York, is a big place. One bridge on the south end from Buffalo and one on the north end to Niagara Falls.

    It is bitter cold today. Twenty below this morning which, even for the Buffalo area, is a bit colder than normal this early in winter. The ice on the bridges last night closed both ends, so I’m stuck here today. And I’m hungry. Been driving from one end of the island to the other… nothing is open. Not because of the weather, but just because of today.

    Got up this morning and looked in the frig. Half a case of beer (Heineken), 2-week old container of used Chinese, an almost full jar of Martini olives, three one-month-old eggs and four pats of butter lifted from the Georgian House of Pancakes. The bread has a nice culture started on one end, but I hear if you toast it, it kills the off-taste. Cracked all three eggs into the skillet for a omelet, but the eggs had no separate yokes. They had merged with the white into an even pale yellow. Didn’t think it looked right so I chucked it. No breakfast.

    It is cold. Colder weather than I’ve ever been in before. A lot different than when I was in Engineering school, living on the beach near Los Angeles.

    Why did I come to Niagara Falls? This is the worst place on earth.

    “Because they asked you to. Because we are going to the moon and they want you to help them. And because your draft number is 91 and they offered you a defense job that carries a deferment. You want to be spending this day in Viet Nam?”

    Well, it would be warmer, and they’d provide the food, and Bob Hope the entertainment.

    “Yeah, and somebody else would provide the bullets.”

    No, I’m glad I’m not over there. But, Niagara Falls? Why didn’t I take that job in Florida? Darn.

    This place is weird. Three months ago I had an apartment one block off the ‘Strand’ in Manhattan Beach. An apartment. A real apartment. In a real apartment building. Not like around here. In Niagara Falls, an apartment is a third bedroom in someone’s house. Walk through somebody’s living room to get to your place? No. Not for me.

    Real apartments haven’t come to Niagara Falls yet. They’re 40 years behind times around here. There are a few apartments down in the middle of Buffalo. Astronomical to rent. Looked a month for one while living in a motel (half rate since the tourist season was over).

    The closest to an apartment I could find was this duplex on Grand Island. In the middle of the river, freezing my ass off. And now, the bridges are closed, as well as every eatery on the island. The pancake house I like is over in Niagara Falls, one frozen bridge away.

    I’m two thousand miles from family. I’d like to have gone home for this week… but I’m new, no seniority, and no vacation time yet. Someone had to cover the tests. I’m stuck with it. Hope the bridges thaw out before work tomorrow. Hope they thaw out before I starve today.

    Why do I keep thinking of food? I have enough beer. That has protein in it. I could live a day on beer. Have the olives for supper.

    Boy, a Georgian Western Omelet, even with pancakes, would be good right now.

    “What? Pancakes? You hate pancakes.”

    Mom fries pancakes in an inch of bacon fat, or lard, or sheep oil, or whatever. ‘Don’t want them to stick,’ she’d say. Of course, the edges were sponges for the grease. Made them all taste the same: Blueberry… bacon fat; Buttermilk… bacon fat; Raspberry Jam on top… bacon fat; tons of Maple syrup… bacon fat.

    Other than pancakes, Mom is a great cook. I miss her cooking. She makes bread twice a week. It gives the whole house a smell like… well, home. Right out of the oven, real butter and homemade strawberry jam.

    And pies. Oh my, her pies. Crusts from scratch, and fillings from the back yard. Apple trees, peach trees, walnut trees, cherry trees, and pumpkin trees… no, pumpkins grow on vines. Big garden, yeah, we had dozens of pumpkins.

    You know, if you make a pie out of fresh pumpkin, you have to get rid of a lot of water. Chopped up and cooked pumpkin has to be dried out, otherwise the pie won’t set. Had some soupy pies a few times in our house.

    Dad used to make beer before I went to college. Now days, you can get good stuff to make great beer. But, the beer Dad made back then was, well, homemade. He’d call it, ‘A little green.’

    Last night was good at the pub. Most of the college kids weren’t around, so the crowd was smaller and you could at least get a seat at the bar. Closed early though. Too bad I didn’t think to buy a spare ‘Beef on Wick’ for today.

    Darn, I’m hungry.

  26. I guess mt worst Christmas memory is when I got my first camera. I asked my father and stepfather to stand together in front of the tree because, well, I loved them both, and you know, Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of year etc etc (hey, I was a seriously deluded 10 year old). Of course, they had a big fight and they are scowling in the picture. Christmas has been a dream since I’ve been an adult. The painful memories are from childhood.

  27. You would think that the worst family holidays would be the growing -up years when the old man would be down in the basement drinking and the old lady would be over-compensating upstairs and we act like everything is normal. Because for us, it was. But really, the worst Christmas ever was just 2009, because i was divorced one week and we celebrated Christmas (early) the next, which also fell on my birthday, and no one in my family acknowledged what a gift ! i am to the family or the world, much less had a cake for me. Being ignored and resented is worse than being yelled at, any day of the year.

    • Now, here’s a topic that needs a separate post: infamous birthdays.

      After experiencing a few, I’ve learned to choreograph my own celebrations so there is a chance for having a nice day. I also like my home-made cakes, giving me a larger excuse…

      ‘Hope this year, your birthday was quite wonderful!

  28. Nothing bad ever happened to me. That’s why I write what I write.

    Well, except I’m hitting the wall tonight, and having trouble finishing this rewrite. I expected Christmas resentment to give me a second wind, but no luck.

  29. Shanna, I’m hoping your husband has a receding hairline, just to even the score. Unless he’s concerned about your health, in which case, take heed.

  30. I, also, have a very difficult time with the “Happy Holidaying”

    http://farmhouseinfrance.blogspot.com/2011/12/wishing-for-family.html

  31. Christmas was the busiet time of the year for the houshold, where I grew up, especially the last 24 hours, when my father had to conduct multiple church services. By the time he made it back home on Christmas afternoon, he was too exhausted to cause any trouble. The first thing he did would be to drink one eggnog and then fall fast asleep on the couch.

  32. When I was five, I (an only child) was thrilled to get to decorate the tree all by myself on Christmas Eve. It was supposed to have been done sooner, as had been the case in years past.
    I remember the perfectly shaped tree, the big old-fashioned bulbs, the boring yule log playing on the TV, the tinsel garland and wooden Santa and Mrs. Claus ornaments. I felt so grown up, tasked with this important privilege.
    What I didn’t know at the time was the reason the tree had not yet been decorated was my mom was too sick to do it and my dad too busy catching up with work after missing so much — due to all the sick days he was taking care of my mom. She lasted another two weeks.
    In theory, that was my worst Christmas, but I didn’t know it.

    • @JoDi.

      God bless you..Sadness is so much more intense with all the commercial pressure of this season. You could think of it as a good
      Christmas cuz it was the last one you had with her. And what a blessing you were for them both.

  33. It took years and children for me to look forward to Christmas. My parents were alcoholics and my father was a mean drunk. I never knew when he would come home in a rage and drag me from bed by my hair, often he would jerk me and have my hair in his hand and me on the other side of the room trying not to cry or look scared. I used to count the hours, minutes and seconds until school Christmas vacation was over and I was in the relative safety of classrooms, although kids were cruel to me also as I was different.

    My worst Christmas occurred after the courts sent me to live with my sister, after she discovered my father’s sexual abuse of me. When I moved in with her, the memories my presence evoked caused her to also abuse me. But after a year she decided that her kids were missing contact with their grandparents so we had to go back to my parents’ house for Christmas. I walked into that house wondering if my father would make good his promise to kill me for telling. It was so uncomfortable having to kiss them, be nice and be around them. I looked in my bedroom where the incest took place, and was swarmed by memories. My mom glared at me for the embarrassment I caused them by being taken out of that house. It was a nightmare of a Christmas.

    I pray all goes well with your memoir. Writing one myself I know how hard it is to go back to those painful memories and share them with others. I pray you have the strength to share your story.

    Heather

  34. Reluctant to share my worst holiday memory. Too awful and scarred me for decades. Let’s just say it involved a gift and an accident with said gift and years of misplaced blame. Forty years later I’m healed good enough, see nothing wrong with just an orange in a stocking if it’s not really your holiday, and can wish the rest of the world joy and peace.

  35. I guess I missed the closed for the holidays sign. This sucks.

  36. God-Dammit, Betsy! goddammit! I try, I really do. I want to like your people, I really do. But children don’t moisten nothin’. i can’t take it anymore. I tried to love you, I really did.But your friends are just too damn dumb. I’m sorry.

  37. All you so-called writers are on notice. We aim to cure you of your depressive impressions. We feel the root of your malaise is bad writing. We aim to destroy bad writing. Everyone who has posted to this blog is under suspicion, and we Will root you out. All of you, and we mean all of you, need to update your resume and erase any mention of writing. We Will destroy you if you don’t. Writing is for Bad, Dirty, people. Our children are in danger with your “celebration.” We won’t have it. If you think this is some sort of attempt at humor by one of your mentally twisted friends, you are in for a life-changing interrogation. We hope you understand our purpose. We only want to to see the right sort of happiness which is a god-given right to all of god’s peoples. We are watching your every key=stroke. Don’t doubt it. We are watching you with natural god-given eyes. We know what we see. Don’t fool yourself—write right.

  38. I love the holidays, that is until they happen. My brother, 44 yo, started a fight with his two nephews, 12 yo, and 13 yo. Not at the same time but on Christmas no less. They are afraid of him. What’s his problem!? He’s just trying to rough house or bond but they arent having it. At what age do people figure it out. I mean all the signs are there. Merry efff-n Christmas!

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